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Early involvement is key to CDM’s effectiveness

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 were a revision of the 1994 regulations.

Unfortunately, the impact of the 1994 regulations was undermined by lack of clarity regarding who was responsible for what, complexity in the drafting and perception that compliance with the regulations necessitated endless paperwork.

There were other problems. For example, while there was a statutory requirement of competence for designers and contractors, there was a lack of criteria to determine whether or not a particular firm was competent.

CDM 2007 sought to address these problems by:

  • Defining the responsibilities of each duty holder (client, designer, CDM co-ordinator, principal contractor and contractor);
  • Being flexible in order to accommodate the various procurement arrangements in the industry;
  • Helping reduce bureaucracy by placing the focus on planning and managing work (rather than on generating paperwork to give an impression that this has been done);
  • Giving greater emphasis on the need for communication between the various duty holders;
  • Introducing a means of assessing the competence of the various duty holders.

The Health and Safety Executive is currently carrying out an evaluation of the industry’s experience of CDM 2007 to date.

Initial results from a survey of building services contractors indicate that the experience has been very disappointing.

Responsibilities of the duty holders

Either the duty holders do not know or do not understand their responsibilities under the regulations. Here is a flavour:

  • Many clients continue to believe that all responsibilities under CDM lie either with designers and/or contractors. But under CDM 2007, the client has the major role in overseeing the management of health and safety risk from the planning and design stages to construction and handover.
  • The CDM co-ordinator is charged with supporting the client in the discharge of his responsibilities and ensuring that there is sufficient co-operation between all parties in managing health and safety risk in the design and construction processes. The constant complaint was that the CDM co-ordinator was neither seen nor heard. In fact, many firms reported that they were never given the name of the CDM co-ordinator.
  • Designers are not providing steps - as they are required to under CDM 2007 - sufficient information about aspects of the design of the structure or its structure of maintenance.
  • There is strong criticism of the role of principal contractors. Many firms reported that they are not given pre-construction information about the state of the site when bidding for work.

Furthermore, firms are not given the construction phase plan before commencing work on site. The plan is important because it deals with the way in which the principal contractor proposes to manage health and safety risks on site.

There is a requirement under CDM 2007 that contractors should have a mobilisation period before the start of work on site. This is to enable them to organise their activities to minimise health and safety risk. Firms report that they are rarely given a mobilisation period.

Flexibility to accommodate procurement arrangements

The problem is that traditional contractual arrangements inhibit early involvement of the supply chain and working together at the design stage with other members of the team to manage risk.

The requirement under CDM 2007 that all parties in the project must co-operate with each other and co-ordinate their inputs cannot be fulfilled because the contact with non-parties is often prohibited by the contracts.

Consideration needs to be given to amending the regulations to require early involvement of the supply chain in the design process. The management of health and safety risk is most effective when it is done at the design stage.

Paperwork

Feedback suggests that the paperwork has not diminished; in fact it is getting worse.

Improving communication

The overriding theme of CDM 2007 was improved communication. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of adequate communication.

Again, this can only be solved where there is early involvement by the supply chain at the front-end of the delivery process.

Duty holder competence

The Approved Code of Practice to CDM 2007 introduced core criteria for assessing health and safety competence. But the problem is that there is a plethora of pre-qualification schemes.

The Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group has reported that these myriad schemes are costing companies in its member bodies almost £40 million a year.

Rita Donaghy’s report last year, One death is too many, acknowledged this problem and urged the government to take the lead in rationalising the pre-qualification process.

We now have the development of PAS 91, which incorporates the health and safety core criteria for competence. This will be launched in September.

If a firm individually or as a member of a pre-qualification scheme complies with the standard it should not have to join any other scheme.

However, the government must mandate the use of the standard on all public construction work up and down the supply chain.

Professor Rudi Klein is chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors’ Group